As parents, it’s not uncommon to want our kids to eat their fruits and veggies – and it’s not news that eating more of them is linked to good health. There’s a reason for the phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” There’s been hundreds of research-based studies that have been backing this claim up for years. They all lead to one conclusion: The healthiest diet on the planet is a plant-based diet.
Image: North Charleston via Flickr
The great thing about making the transition to a more plant-based way of eating is that it doesn’t involve complicated instructions. To simply help jump start you and your family to optimal health and wellness, here are 10 plant-powered kid-friendly steps.
Don’t rule out the gray area. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines defines a plant-based diet as a diet that “emphasizes plant foods.” For some families, a plant-based diet may consist of no animal products. For others, it might be a more gradual process of shifting away from the traditional Western diet that is high in animal products toward more plant foods. It’s a simple shift towards more whole, unprocessed foods that come directly from plants.
Ease into it. If meat is a staple in your household for every meal, you have room to cut back. Create a family goal for how many meatless meals you want to eat. You could start out slowly by having one completely plant-based meal per week, or even having an entirely meatless day.
Wake up “veggie.” Breakfast is one of the easiest meals to skip on the meat. With so many delicious breakfast foods, such as whole-grain cereals and breads, fruit, and even vegetables – you’re little one will be too busy eating buckwheat pecan pancakes with peaches to even notice the bacon missing from the table.
Let your little helpers help you. Getting your kids involved in the kitchen is the best way to teach them healthy eating habits. Including them in meal preparation is not only fun, it’s a great way to introduce them to new foods and flavors. And don’t forget to take pictures! These are the moments you’ll treasure long after the meal is done.
More of the good stuff. Visit your local supermarket or farmers' market and feast your eyes on all the things you can enjoy as a family: a rainbow of delicious fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It doesn’t hurt that so many of these foods are nature’s perfect convenience foods. It doesn’t get much easier than grabbing a banana or washing a small container of berries for a healthy on-the-go snack.
Use the Crock-Pot. Using your Crock-Pot or slow cooker can be fast! Combine all ingredients in the morning, turn it on and leave it until dinnertime. One-dish meals such as chili, stews, pasta dishes, casseroles, and stir-fries are one of the simplest ways to prepare veggie-filled meals.
Change the plate. When planning your menu, start with the vegetable or whole-grain component. Meat doesn’t always need to be the “center of the plate” at mealtime.
Stretch it out. Cut down on the amount of meat you consume by taking one individual portion of meat or chicken and using it to flavor an entire family-size meal of stir-fry, casserole, or stew.
Enjoy a family night out! Some cultures know how to do vegetarian right – so visit a local Mexican, Indian, Thai or Vietnamese restaurant as family. Observe how dishes are prepared and then take home a few culinary tricks or ideas with you.
Invest in a good veggie cookbook. A cookbook can give home cooks valuable ideas for how to put together simple, delicious meals. If you need an easy and delicious starting point, try this Southwest Black Bean Quinoa Salad from The Plant Powered Diet. You can also watch me prepare it here.
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